The maturity of fiction awareness

Mesopotamian religious imagery

In an ongoing series, I'm covering topics that catch my interest as I read Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.  One topic that Harari returns to often is the idea of imagined worlds.  Homo sapiens acquired the ability to create imagined worlds in what he called "the cognitive revolution".  Most anthropologists see … Continue reading The maturity of fiction awareness

Was the agricultural revolution a mistake?

Associations of wild cereals and other wild grasses in northern Israel

I'm continuing to work my way through Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and have just finished his section on the agricultural revolution.  This is the transition from a hunter-gatherer foraging lifestyle, which humanity had followed for hundreds of thousands of years, to a settled farming one about 12,000 years ago. Harari describes … Continue reading Was the agricultural revolution a mistake?

The ecological disaster of Homo sapiens

I'm finally heeding all the recommendations and reading Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.  Harari is an excellent writer, and though at times he seems to present some unproven hypotheses as proven fact, and nine years after initial publication some of the information feels a bit dated, he makes up for it … Continue reading The ecological disaster of Homo sapiens

Communication and hypothetical thinking

Keith Frankish has an interesting article at Psyche pondering what ability separates modern humanity from archaic humans (such as homo erectus).  His vote is hypothetical thinking.  From the article: The ability I mean is that of hypothetical thinking – the ability to detach one’s mind from the here and now, and consciously think about other … Continue reading Communication and hypothetical thinking

Maybe we wiped Neanderthals out after all

Or at least, that's the conclusion of a paper which models the population changes and other factors involved. New model to study hominin interactions in time-varying climate environment. Neanderthals experienced rapid population decline due to competitive exclusion. Interbreeding only minor contributor to Neanderthal extinction. Abrupt Climate Change not major cause for demise of Neanderthals. Of … Continue reading Maybe we wiped Neanderthals out after all

Neanderthals and the beginnings of us

The Smithsonian has an interesting article up on what we currently know about Neanderthals.  The article details some of the internecine battles that always seems to be a part of the paleoanthropology field, in this case focusing on the capabilities of Neanderthals, whether they had art, religion, and other qualities of modern humans. Our view … Continue reading Neanderthals and the beginnings of us

The extraordinary low probability of intelligent life

Marc Defant gave a TEDx talk on the improbable events that had to happen in our planet's history for us to eventually evolve, along with the implications for other intelligent life in the galaxy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nCOhrYV7eg I find a lot to agree with in Defant's remarks, although there are a couple points I'd quibble with.  The … Continue reading The extraordinary low probability of intelligent life

The necessity of dexterity for civilization

Today's SMBC highlights something about humanity that is often overlooked, something that any extraterrestrial intelligence that builds a civilization would have to have. Click through for hover-text and red button caption. Source: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Mammal Conspiracy We often talk about the intelligence of dolphins, whales, cephalopods, elephants, and other species.  But … Continue reading The necessity of dexterity for civilization

Is there a moral arc to history?

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. As someone who isn't able to find an objective basis for morality, I've often wondered what that means for the above statement from Martin Luther King.  It certainly feels like we're making moral progress, that the status of previously oppressed or marginalized people … Continue reading Is there a moral arc to history?